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Sandy Hook Shooting Victims' Funeral Preparations Take Toll On Cemeteries, Churches

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Veronique Pozner, left, embraces a young girl as she arrives at B'nai Israel Cemetery for burial services for her 6-year-old son Noah Pozner, Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, in Monroe, Conn. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) | AP

Mark Caviasca has helped bury thousands of bodies over his 19 years as the manager at Mt. Olivet, a 166-acre Catholic cemetery in Watertown, Conn., about 30 minutes southwest of the site of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn.

For the most part, this week's schedule is like any other. There are mothers, fathers, grandparents, people who died of old age and those who had lived long lives that ended in sickness. But one is a bit more unique: The funeral on Friday of Rachel Marie D'Avino, the 29-year-old teacher's aide who had just begun a new job at Sandy Hook Elementary School a week before she was shot dead on Friday.

"It's a lot of people coming through that I don't know. So it usually does not have a great effect on you, but you think of how it would be if it was someone you knew," Caviasca said. "The cemetery is basically just in charge of opening up the hole in the ground and setting up the area so it looks nice for the family, but yeah, you cannot help but to think of who is coming through."

Oftentimes, he doesn't know who is being buried until shortly before it happens. Most burials last between 30 minutes to an hour, he said, and he tends to quickly lose track of names. But tragedies are different. Especially those involving younger people.

"By this point, most deaths, while sad, do not affect me that much. But it does bother me when it's a child. When you see that small coffin come in and know some poor child's life has been robbed. I don't think we are having any of the kids from Newtown come here, but that could change really fast," he said. "We don't find out these things until a day or two before. We only require 24 hours notice."

Two funerals took place on Monday for six-year-olds Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto, and there will be at least two more for six-year-olds Jessica Rekos and James Mattioli on Tuesday. Several more services are planned through the weekend, with more announcements of funeral arrangements to come.

Several families of victims, including Jessica's parents, are having funeral services at Catholic churches, such as St. Rose of Lima church in Newtown. Other victims are being buried at Catholic cemeteries, including St. Rose cemetery in Newtown. A funeral Mass for James will also be celebrated at St. Rose of Lima church, and he will be buried at St. John's cemetery in Darien, Conn.

While families can choose the type of funeral they prefer for their children, burials are often preferred, said Msgr. Frank McGrath, the priest at St. John's church in Darien. McGrath is not celebrating the funeral Mass for Mattioli -- it will be at St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown -- but said he was aware of the funeral and that his church praying for victims.

"The tradition comes from Jesus's own burial," McGrath said. "We prefer burial because the idea is that when we die, no matter what the cause or how tragic, we will arise again from the dead on the last day."

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